This One is For the Dogs

1375149_10201752336386621_1806692560_nThere are a lot of obvious distractions while driving like phones, iPods, CDs, food, and drinks.

However most people overlook that cute furry distraction that is present in the cars of 1 in 5 pet-owning Americans. Sure a floppy eared dog with his cute little head out the window is adorable, but also very dangerous for both the passengers and the dog himself.

Having an unrestrained pet in the car can be a bigger distraction than a cell phone or other inanimate object, because a pet has a mind of its own and if it’s not restrained, it can roam freely in the car.

While it isn’t a law in New Jersey yet, driving with pets is pretty common and statistics say that 31% of drivers who transported a pet said it was a distraction no matter where it was in the car.

So the next time you take Spot to the beach, “buckle” him up, because seat belts save lives-even of puppies.

(reposted from previous blog)

Leave Handicapped Parking Spaces for Those with Handicaps

handicap parking van acccessibleIn the last year of her life, my Mom was slowed by age and illness.  Mobility issues forced her to use a walker to get around.  Mom traded in her driver’s licenses for a Handicapped placard which she could transfer to any vehicle in which she was a passenger.  She knew where the handicapped spaces were located at the places she frequented.  It irked her to discover vehicles without special placards or license plates parked in them.    She didn’t like to be “dropped off” while her companion hunted for a space. It was a major production which she found embarrassing. Get out of the car, retrieve the walker from the backseat, open it up, help Mom out of the car, get her situated, and wait to make sure she entered the establishment without incident.   Sometimes, when she saw an able-bodied person saunter to the vehicle he or she parked in a handicapped spot, Mom speak up,

“You shouldn’t be parking there. This is for handicapped people.”

“I was only running in for a minute,” the driver replied.

“Be thankful, you can run,” was her sharp retort.

In NJ, over 50,000 license plates and 460,000 placards have been issued to persons with certain handicaps. A list of the criteria for these permits and an application may be found at

Those who park in handicapped spaces without a license plate or placard are subject to fines and repeat offenders may be required to serve 90 days community service.  The NJ Legislature is considering a bill that cracks down on motorists who unlawfully use a temporary or permanent handicapped parking placard.  If Assemblymen Reed Gusciora, John Burzichelli, and Troy Singleton have their way, violators would face fines of up to $500.

It’s too bad we need this law.  Handicapped spaces are the ultimate “preferred” parking, located conveniently near the entrance to the market, library, restaurant, or movies.  But, my Mom would have so “preferred” to walk across a parking lot with a sprightly, confident gait.  She would have preferred not to need a walker.  But since she did, she preferred being able to park in a handicapped space.



What’s So Special About Middlesex County?

WWWEYEfinal1Nearly six years ago I stumbled into a meeting with the Director of the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce (MCRCC).  The people at the meeting were discussing creating a Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) within the chamber in order to promote tourism in MiddlesexCounty.  Although I thought tourism in this county was somewhat laughable, they were serving sandwiches so I decided to stay for the meeting.

Since that inaugural meeting, we have seen this idea develop and grow into a high functioning part of the MCRCC.  The mission to collaborate with the business community has been greatly enhanced by our efforts with the hospitality industry.  Thanks to the financial support from our charter members, state grants, and membership dues we have seen the CVB become a valuable resource for our county’s economy.

Travel and tourism is not something that is foreign to Middlesex County.  Our history for travelers goes back before colonial times.  Route 27, which dissects the county, was called the King’s Highway in the 18th century connecting New York and Philadelphia.  New Jersey is the crossroads of the American Revolution and Middlesex County is the crossroads of New Jersey.  No where else does the Turnpike and Parkway intersect.  Our commerce has something for everybody along Route 1, Route 9, Route 18, Route 34 or Route 35.  An employee at the gift ship I was at in Xian, China asked me where I was from in the United States, and when I said NJ he said , “Exit 8A?” (which is also located in Middlesex County).  There is no place else that can be called the home of Thomas Edison and Elsie the Cow.

Middlesex County is the definition of a great location with so much to offer.  We have first-rate theaters, diverse ethnic restaurant choices, a rich history, first class hotels and meeting rooms, and a nationally prominent university.  These are the reasons that these numbers make so much sense.

The state total is over $ 38 billion, and one tenth of our employment base is tied into travel and tourism.

In 2011,  Middlesex County  tourism generated $ 1.8 billion of revenue and provided for over 35,000 jobs.  Middlesex County has and will continue to be near the top in occupancy tax dollars collected, which directly assists municipalities with the ever-increasing burden of property taxes.

Understanding the financial value to this industry is how a regional CVB and MCRCC can help grow our economy.  As I said, our first few years with a volunteer board and a decreased amount of state aid, we were still able to develop a strategy and plan to promote travel and tourism.  In 2012, we began to see the implementation of this plan beginning to take hold.  Our sleek modern website, travel guide, search engine upgrades, and direct radio advertising has seen a significant increase in our visibility and viability.  Our website in 2012 had a 500% increase in hits, our RFP collaboration with hotels has generated some significant business opportunities, and our outreach to local municipal leaders has extended our capacity for local business.

We look at 2013 as a watershed opportunity to have the MCRCC and CVB play a vital role helping our local businesses recover from the doldrums we have seen over the past few years.  We see the Big Ten participation and the Superbowl Game as major boosts to the travel and tourism industries in MiddlesexCounty.  But I believe it would be too limiting to call tourism a sight specific business.  If our restaurants got more people to eat dinner out, there will probably be more work for local plumbers.  If more people visit Middlesex County, our gas stations will sell more gasoline and accountants will have more service station owners needing tax assistance.

Our Freeholder Director announced at his reorganization last week of how much additional collaboration he hopes to achieve with us in 2013.  Our partnership has always been extremely valuable, but having additional support will go a long way to a stronger economic development plan for our county.

We plan on using our business support for over 100 years as a stepping stone to advance the potential positive impact coming our way this year.  We will be promoting Superbowl and Rutgers packages.  We will be fine tuning our marketing research, we will be hosting Meet the Mayors meetings, and we will use our marketing tools to help you grow your business.  We want to help.  We know our value, and we want you to join us to work together for the greater good for Middlesex County residents and businesses.

~BN (Speech given at the Convention of Visitor’s Bureau 2.10.13 event)